Washington, Sep. 09 – Iran is secretly building a uranium enrichment site near Qazvin, 120 km west of Tehran, Iranian dissidents said on Thursday.
The Behjatabad-Abyek site, code-named '311', is 85 percent complete and can fit several thousand centrifuges, according to the main opposition group People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI). Iranian military personnel secretly began constructing the site, deep inside mountains between the cities of Abyek and Qazvin, in 2005.
The group's information was unveiled at a press conference organised by the Iran Policy Committee in Washington.
Iranian opposition official Soona Samsami named Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defence Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as top officials involved in the secret project.
"So far the regime has spent 100 million dollars on the project", she said, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency had deliberately been kept uninformed of the site by the Iranian authorities.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of “The Iran Threat” and director until 2003 of Congressional Affairs for the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, added: "The site has a tunnel as the main entrance, 8 meters wide and nearly 200 meters long. It leads deep inside the ground to three large halls, 16-20 meters wide and 200 meters long. The site also has an exit shaft and a vertical shaft. There are halls and office space inside the tunnels”. The site includes facilities to install centrifuges and workshops for nuclear work.
Centrifuges spin at supersonic speed to enrich uranium. Highly-enriched uranium is the main component of a nuclear bomb.
The revelation comes as an embarrassment to Tehran which on Tuesday ticked the UN atomic watchdog for a report critical of its lack of cooperation with international inspectors.
The Iranian opposition was the first to blow the whistle on the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy-water plant in 2002 and subsequently made a string of stunning revelations on other nuclear sites in Iran, triggering the inspection of Iranian nuclear sites by the IAEA and leading to four sets of sanctions resolutions by the UN Security Council.